The Gaza Strip: Bone of Contention

The unresolved long standing conflict between Palestine and Israel over the Gaza Strip continues to rage despite international intervention. Humanitarian concerns seem to have taken a back seat in this blind battle for seizure of power over the Gaza Strip which is a costal land bordering Egypt and Israel and is one of the most densely populated regions on earth with a population of 1.5 million.


Gaza was part of Palestine under the British control following a mandate of the League of Nations after the First World War. In 1948 however, after Israel declared its independence, Gaza was captured by Egypt but the population mostly consisted of Palestinian refugees. In the 1967 war, Israel managed to establish its control over the Strip and settled 8,000 Israelis. In 2005 Israel decided to end its occupation of Gaza under its unilateral disengagement plan and thus Israeli evacuation ensued. Soon after the Palestinian authorities under the Fatah Party rule took control of Gaza with the belief that a final Two State solution could be agreed upon if Israel co-operated. This vision was short lived because in 2006 Hamas, which is Palestine’s largest Islamic militant organization and considered as a terrorist organization by Israel, UN and EU, won the general elections and established its authority over Gaza. Hamas works for the objective of driving the Israeli forces out of the occupied territories. Hamas which literally stands for the Islamic Resistance Movement asserts that the State of Israel with its current territorial expansion is illegal. It wants the restoration of the historic Palestine as it was before the 1967 war, offering a ten year truce if Israel agrees to evacuate the occupied territories.


In 2007 Hamas re-established its control over Gaza by brute force after a military victory over The Palestinian Nationalist Party. Following which, Egypt closed the Rafah Border crossing and Israel isolated Gaza by closing the remaining access routes to Gaza. The Blockade caused severe humanitarian crisis since movement of goods and fuel was halted. Exports came to a standstill and devastated the already crumbling Gaza economy. Lack of fuel led to the shutting down of the main Gaza power plant on several occasions. Food was provided by the UN agencies to the refugees but this too was blocked by Israeli authorities on security grounds. Hamas launched an Offensive against Israel by attacking Israel cities with rockets and mortars. Since 2005, over 7200 rockets have rocked several cities of Israel. Ceasefire attempts have been made on many occasions but none could sustain for long. In December 2008, Israel launched a well planned military attack on Gaza on the pretext of destroying the Hamas camps. Hamas retaliated with rocket warfare. More than 1000 Gaza civilians were killed and several injured. These attacks were condemned by the international community, urging Israel to withdraw its troops.


UN Human Rights Agencies have accused Israel of using unlawful means of warfare leading to the death of civilians and major damage to health and medical facilities. Israel however justifies these as acts of self defence. Soon after Brack Obama assumed office in January 2009, his envoy to the Middle East, George J Mitchell held peace talks in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. He however refrained from any dialogue with Hamas.


A three-state solution, rather than a two state solution (which obviously seems to have failed) could restore Gaza. This implies the handing over of Gaza to Egypt which is capable of providing it economic and financial support as opposed to Palestine whose own economy is in shambles owing to the corrupt Nationalist Party followed by the fanatic Hamas. Another course of action could be the re-structuring of Gaza with the help of international aid. Gaza, located on the coast could be transformed into a tourist destination providing easy employment to its 1.5 million people and restoring itself as an independent economy. This however seems to be a far cry. What needs to be done immediately is to make Israel and Palestine realize that the people of Gaza have an equal say and that they too deserve to live.


Neha Maheshwari

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